Instagram is a really good place for creatives or product focused businesses to gain a following because it’s a visual medium. There are many successful brands that sell from Instagram. First they build up a following and then they start to sell their wares every few posts. It works really well and I think you too can do it, if Instagram is your medium of choice—you either need to love it or it’s where your target market is, but first you’ll need to learn how best to use it.
Your account is made up of your username (use the same name that you do on your other social media channels), name/title, short bio, website link and images/photos. Your images can be called a feed or a gallery—It’s your curated content.
Here’s some tips in how to setup your account:
Create a good bio. You only have so many characters so use them wisely. Have a bio that states what you’ll be posting (nature, city, people, urban settings, travel etc), where you’re from and a way to contact you. If you have a website make sure you have that too. It’s the only clickable link you can have on IG. If you ever mention something in a post you can temporarily change the link to point to that blog post or product for sale and tell your customers that the link is in your bio. Just remember to change it when you have a new blog post or after a few days of that post being live.
Organize your pictures. It’s kind of like Tetris. You have to think about what you just posted and what you might want to post next. When someone first pulls up your feed they’ll only see 9 photos so you want to always make sure those 9 photos look good in the grid and make them want to scroll to see more. I hate it when I mess up and put two images that are similar right next to each other. Or maybe it’s two dark images and a light one or two really light ones and then a dark one. Those two images will distract your eye from the rest because it’s off balance. I’m a huge fan of asymmetry but here it can be distracting from all the other awesome photos.
rouxroamer on Instagram
I think it’s best to try to alternate colors or scenes. Something that gives your feed some visual interest without being distracting. On my feed I usually alternate more blue pictures with sunset or sunrise pictures or light then dark pictures.
rouxroamer on Instagram
Post your best work. Only post the best of the best. If you take a bunch of photos of a place or product, select your top ones and post those. Don’t post them all at once, space them out over a few days or a few weeks so that you can still keep your page really organized like I mentioned above. Remember, you only get 9 photos to show off what you can do. You want those photos to be interesting enough to draw them into the rest of your feed. You want to make people scroll, go to your website and follow you.
Pick a focus. What’s the one thing you want to be known for in your business? It’s usually best to pick one focus for your account. Some people base their accounts on tones. Some accounts have a really light tone to all their images and some have a very dark and moody tone. Of course, there are some feeds have really vibrant images and some have really washed out, faded images. Then there are some people that only take pictures of birds, fashion or people.
It’s good to have a consistent tone or focus on your account (see below). This is your niche, this is what you mention in your bio. If you haven’t figured out what your niche is yet, what do people like most on your page already? Where do you have the most comments or likes? What is it about that image or images that’s different than the others that don’t have as many likes? Is it the edit, tone, or subject matter? You can play around a bit until you get it right. Just delete what doesn’t work and try again.
leannecolephotography on Instagram
Formatting should be similar. If you post landscape or portrait pictures it still crops your thumbnails down to a square when someone looks at your specific feed. When you click on the photo or see it in the “home” feed you’ll see the whole thing.
Some people like to have white borders on all their photos. It can also be a black border or something else that works for you and your photos. Maybe it’s a white background for all your products or food. This can all be done before you post your photo so that they all show up looking the same (see below).
sunnylenarduzzi on Instagram
Now that you’ve setup your account it’s time to grow your following
I’m not the best at following my own advice but when I do, I get more likes, comments and followers. I hope that your following can grow too with these five tips:
Like a lot of photos. Like photos on tags that you use. (If you tag #portland or #foodie, like photos in that hashtag.) Like a lot of them, you can like up to 350 posts in an hour. Do this once an hour, daily or every other day. The more you do it, the more you grow because people will notice you that would never have noticed you before. They’ll probably like some of your photos too or better yet follow you. Note: You can like up to 350 photos in an hour. This changes as Instagram changes so beware not to get too heart happy and get your account suspended for 24 hours.
Comment on photos. Comments get noticed even more than likes do. Go to the same hashtags that you use and not just like photos but make comments too, especially those photos that stop you in your tracks, that cause your jaw to drop a little. Let them know it with a comment. Everybody likes to be liked but they love when you give words of appreciation.
If you want more customers to buy from you, who are your customers now? Go out and find other accounts that you think would make good customers and comment on their photos. Say something nice, don’t just ask them to “follow for follow” as that makes you look desperate for the follower. You want real connections and engagement, not just numbers to be a success on Instagram and in business.
Use hashtags. If the prior two tips don’t work for you because you don’t use any hashtags, start using them. It’s the way to be seen on Instagram (and Twitter). If you follow any feature pages, use their hashtags on your photos for a chance to be featured. If you don’t follow any feature pages, you should! If you get featured you get more eyes on your work than just your own followers and fans. I’ve seen features get people anywhere from a few followers to a 1,000 followers, it just depends on the page and how many followers they have. Note: You can only use up to 30 hashtags per post and they are added to that hashtag at the time you posted the photo to Instagram not when you add the hashtags. And yes, I am an advocate for using all 30 if your goal is to get featured on other accounts. If this is not your goal, it’s still a good way for your brand or account to be seen.
Follow people. If you like their work, follow them. If they follow you, follow them back, unless you really don’t like what they post. You are not required to follow anyone that follows you. You should follow what you find interesting. I hope that you’re posting photos that others find interesting as well. If you don’t care who you follow and want to get noticed by even more people just start following a bunch of accounts that also follow a page that you do. A lot of people will then follow you back. If they don’t follow, a few days later you can go back and unfollow them. Repeat every few days or whenever you have time to follow then a couple days later unfollow. It’s kind of a fun way to see some new accounts as well. Note: You can follow up to 50 accounts in an hour.
Look at your analytics. I mentioned above that you can unfollow those people that don’t follow you back. You can do this using Crowdfire on your phone or computer. You can see the best times of day to post, your most liked media, best filters, best hashtags, your most commented on media and so much more if you use Iconosquare (sadly it’s no longer free but just a couple dollars a month). Some other great analytics tools are Websta and Squarlovin (these are still free). These tools are also great for liking and commenting.
The first and best advice I can give you is post consistently. That means post your best work and post regularly. If you miss a day or two that’s ok. Just keep at it and I know you’ll see some good results. Good luck!
Melissa D. Jones, aka Roux Roamer, is a creative entrepreneur running her own business, extracting inspiration from around the world to help businesses achieve brilliant design. Living for travel, adventure and new experiences she’s photographed her way around 50 states and 40 countries (and counting!) and wrote all her travel knowledge into a book Women with Wanderlust: A Guide to Roaming. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram @rouxroamer, of course!